Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. It’s the first thing many of us learn about sustainability and remains the...
Wait, I Can Recycle That?
Recycling is the process of diverting waste from landfills by processing the materials and turning them into something new or repurposing them. This is an act of sustainability in two ways:
- Reducing the amount of waste that enters landfills or our oceans
- Reducing the need for new resources to be extracted.
When most people think about recycling they think of their local recycling system, typically a municipal pick up system that processes paper and plastic products. These systems are great, making it easy for people to recycle some of the most common materials that would otherwise end up in landfills. Some municipal systems even accept compost, allowing food scraps and other natural materials to properly decompose.
However, these systems are only able to accept a limited list of materials. This leaves many items entering landfills that don’t need to. As well, there are products that can’t necessarily be recycled, but can be disposed of much more safely outside of landfills that are not accepted by these systems. This is where private recycling centers come in!
Recycling and Sustainability: How Does it Help
At Sustainable Life App we view the best model of sustainability as the closed loop economy, a concept that entails as little resource extraction and as little waste as possible. This means making the absolute most of materials that have already been extracted, and using the safest methods possible when something does have to be exposed. Recycling is a core concept of this model, diverting waste from landfills to be reused in future products.
Diverting Waste from Landfills
When products are sent to a landfill they are not processed for proper disposal based on the materials they are made of. Rather, the trash is piled together, compacted, and left to decompose, if it can, or just sit. When materials that can decompose like food scraps or cardboard are sent here they break down improperly, releasing harmful methane gases. When plastics are sent to landfills they take anywhere from ten to hundreds of years to break down, often creating micro plastics that can enter our water streams and harm wildlife. Other products like batteries, electronics, and appliances can leak harmful chemicals into the local soil and water supply. The purpose of recycling is to ensure only products that cannot be recycled or disposed of in any other way are sent to these landfills, both reducing the quantity of this waste and the harm it can cause.
Reducing the Extraction of New Materials
All products have to be made from something, and when new resources are extracted it is often harmful to the environment. From chopping down trees to create cardboard or wooden products to the extraction of oil to create plastics extraction processes and the extraction itself has negative environmental repercussions. By recycling products into new versions of themselves, like melting down plastic to create new blends of plastic or using paper products to create recycled cardboard, recycling reduces the quantity of new resources that need to be extracted every year.
So, What Exactly Can I Recycle?
All kinds of products can be taken, broken down and recycled. Sometimes these products are recycled in the same way plastic and cardboard are, processing them into a new version of that material to be used. Other times, products are broken down for parts, or disposed of in a way that is much safer than being sent to a landfill.
Always start by exploring what your local recycling program (if you have one) can accept. This should be easily findable online by searching “(your city) recycling guidelines”. Once you’ve learned what your local system accepts, you can search for centers and programs in your area that can help you recycle products not accepted by this system! The following is a (non-exhaustive) list of products that can be recycled at these independent centers!
How can Sustainable Life App Help?
It can be hard to figure out exactly what recycling facilities you have access to in your area. Sometimes there are items you wouldn’t even think to recycle until you find a place in your area that offers that service! With the Sustainable Life App you can view a map of all the recycling centers that have been added in your area, and view a description of exactly what they do and how you can access their services. You can download the app here on IOS or Android and explore recycling centers and other businesses dedicated to sustainability in your community!